August 31, 2018

Congressman Luján Leads Efforts to Support Southwest Chief Line

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) sent bipartisan letters to Amtrak Headquarters and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) expressing support for the Amtrak Southwest Chief Line.

The letter to THUD requests the inclusion of the bipartisan Senate amendment that provides $50 million for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route in the final THUD Appropriations bill.

In the letter to Amtrak, the Members ask for Amtrak to continue to commit to the TIGER IX grant and urge Amtrak work closely with local stakeholders to ensure continued rail service. They wrote, “The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, connecting communities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. In many cases, this line serves as the only affordable alternative transportation option to highways for our citizens and it provides a critical link to public and private services in larger cities for rural residents…We believe that replacing train service through rural communities with buses undermines Amtrak’s responsibility as a quasi-governmental entity to provide intercity public transportation. In addition, it raises concerns that Amtrak may move to eliminate passenger rail service in other rural communities.”

The full text of the letters can be read below.

Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price:

As you work to complete the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019, we encourage you to include funding to maintain Amtrak train service along the established, long-distance Southwest Chief passenger rail route.


The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, connecting communities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. In many cases, this line serves as the only affordable alternative transportation option to highways for our citizens and it provides a critical link to public and private services in larger cities for rural residents. In addition, every summer, the Southwest Chief transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M.

Unfortunately, Amtrak is considering suspending operation along this route and instead moving ahead with a plan to replace long-distance train service along the route with bus service. This potential suspension is extremely concerning to the people and communities served by the Southwest Chief and raises serious concerns that Amtrak will eliminate passenger rail service in other rural communities.

During Senate consideration of the THUD Appropriations bill, the Senate adopted a bipartisan amendment to provide $50 million for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route. The amendment also compels Amtrak to fulfill its promise to provide matching funding for the successful TIGER IX discretionary grant supported by local communities up and down this route. 


We believe that this amendment should be included in the final THUD Appropriations bill and look forward to working with you to address these concerns.

Sincerely,

Rep. Ben Ray Luján
Rep. Scott Tipton
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Rep. Steve Pearce
Rep. Tom O’Halleran
Rep. Ron Estes
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Paul Cook
Rep. Dave Loebsack
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, CPA
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Rep. Daniel Lipinski
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard
Rep. Tony Cárdenas

Dear Mr. Anderson:

We write to express our concern that Amtrak is considering suspending operation of the Southwest Chief passenger train and instead focusing on a plan to replace long-distance train service along this route with bus service. This potential suspension is extremely concerning to the people and communities served by this train.

As you know, the Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, connecting communities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. In many cases, this line serves as the only affordable alternative transportation option to highways for our citizens and it provides a critical link to public and private services in larger cities for rural residents. In addition, every summer, the Southwest Chief transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M.

We believe that replacing train service through rural communities with buses undermines Amtrak’s responsibility as a quasi-governmental entity to provide intercity public transportation. In addition, it raises concerns that Amtrak may move to eliminate passenger rail service in other rural communities.

Though capital investments are needed to maintain the current route, we are pleased that the Department of Transportation (DOT) awarded multiple grants to replace segments of aging rail line on which Amtrak's Southwest Chief operates. To continues this progress, we request that Amtrak uphold its commitment to the TIGER IX grant. Further, we encourage Amtrak to apply for funding through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program. Recently, the Federal Railroad Administration released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) that includes $318 million CRISI grant funding. We urge Amtrak to also work closely with local stakeholder to find a responsible solution to ensure continued rail service.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Rep. Ben Ray Luján
Rep. Scott Tipton
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Rep. Steve Pearce
Rep. Tom O’Halleran
Rep. Ron Estes
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Paul Cook
Rep. Dave Loebsack
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, CPA
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Rep. Roger Marshall
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard
Rep. Tony Cárdenas

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 Letter to Amtrak CEO (08/31/1805:41 PMET )

 Letter to THUD - Amtrak (08/31/1805:41 PMET )